Right now, the young people in Japan are focusing on “Bon Odori,” a traditional Japanese festival. How did the festival, which was normally enjoyed by the town’s elders as well as children, become so popular among young people? I would like to introduce the current affairs of “Bon Odori”, one of the most well-known Japanese traditions in summer.
■The origin of Bon Odori
The Japanese traditional festival “Bon Odori” used to be a religious ceremony as an ancestral memorial service that combined the Buddhist rite called “Nenbutsu Odori (Buddhist incantation involving dancing, chanting)”, and “Urabon-e (Feast of Lanterns, or Obon)”. However, after the second World War (1950’s), the religious aspects of the festival started to fade, and it became a recreational festival for deepening local friendship.
■The freedom in the music used in Bon Odori
Bon Odori can accommodate any kind of music as long as it abides by the following two rules:
1. It must allow the people to dance around a “Yagura (turret)”
2. It must have a single, uniform choreography
Japanese folk music has always been evolving while going through various arrangements such as samba, rock, hip hop, as well as animation character songs (such as “Doraemon-ondo”). The evolution is still ongoing, and young people have been streaming their own versions of Bon Odori music. As a matter of fact, in 2015, there was the first “BDM (Bon Dance Music)” festival (which turned out to be incredibly popular), modelled after the currently hot “EDM (Electronic Dance Music” trend.
■The influence of cosplaying
Following the recent boom in Japan’s animation culture, Bon Odori has been experiencing the influence in the form of a growing number of cosplayers participating in it. If you take a look at the social network accounts of “cosplayers” (people who wear clothes made to look like those of animation characters, etc.), you will notice that many of them have pictures of themselves participating in Bon Odori festivals in yukatas. A large part of their interest seems to be rooted in the fact that Bon Odori provides a chance for them to wear yukatas, which is only occasionally worn. As a result, their pictures posted online have been motivating more and more young people to take part in Bon Odori.
■The connection following the earthquake disaster / a sense of bond in the community
Ever since the Great East Japan Earthquake that took place in March 11th 2011, the Japanese people have developed a tendency to seek ties with other people in their areas. Perhaps Bon Odori provides a greater sense of bond between people, where participants get to circle around a single turret in a dreamy atmosphere, all dancing the same dance in a uniform manner.
■Let’s enjoy Bon Dance!
Following the Japanese saying, “hearing it a hundred times is no match for seeing it once (or, seeing is believing)”, I also took part in “Roppongi Bon Odori Contest 2016”. The pictures and videos I took there are available below. If you’re interested, please check them out.
Fields Research Institute (FRI) conducts research in entertainment.
This article was written by a member of FRI, through the original coverage of his/her interests observed in their daily lives.